Torso "Adam" BBCIn 2002, a woman of West African origin was arrested in Glasgow in connection with the murder of a young boy whose torso was found in the Thames in London. The child’s torso, clad only in a pair of orange shorts, was spotted floating in the Thames near Tower Bridge on 21 September, 2001. It had been in the water for up to 10 days. The boy was named Adam by police officers working on the inquiry.

Police have described the case as unprecedented. The boy ­ aged between four and seven ­ had been beheaded and his legs severed above the knee. His arms had been cut off and his atlas bone ­ the vertebra that supports the skull ­ had also been removed. Police followed the theory that he might been the victim of a ritual muti killing, in which body parts are taken for their supposed magical powers. Scotland Yard consulted a specialist South African police unit that investigates occult crimes.

Experts on African religion consulted by Scotland Yard believe Adam may have been sacrificed to one of 400 orisha, or ancestor gods, of the Yoruba, Nigeria’s second largest ethnic group. Oshun, a river goddess, is associated with orange, the colour of the shorts put on Adam’s body after he was killed. The body was kept for another day before being dumped.

Through a series of pioneering forensic science inquiries, the police managed to piece together much of the mystery. Pollen recovered in the boy’s stomach showed he was alive when he arrived in London and stayed there for several days before being murdered. From tests on mineral levels in the boy’s bones, forensic scientists were able to establish that Adam spent his life in a 100-mile stretch of land in Nigeria, near Benin City in the south-west of the country, before he was brought to Britain. Metropolitan police travelled to Nigeria and launched a campaign to track Adam’s parents. Despite visiting primary schools and looking at reported missing children in the region, there was no success.

Adam remains unidentified. His body, kept in Poplar mortuary in Tower Hamlets, was laid to rest in an unmarked grave at a London cemetery, in 2006. Several arrests have been made in a case which showed links between human trafficking and ritual abuse, but no-one has yet been charged. The officers still hope that one day, Adam’s family will come forward so he can be properly buried in his own country. The BBC article is here.